Is Theistic Evolution Viable?

In order to reconcile the obvious “fact” of evolution with Biblical teaching, many Christians will make a compromise with the majority of the academic community.  These Christians contend that God can be inserted in the evolutionary process at several points where current evolutionary theory does not have adequate explanations and the Bible can still be followed as the story of humanity and Christ, once humans evolved that is.  The problem lies in that believers in theistic evolution must make several deviations from Biblical doctrine, evolutionary theory and logic.

Biblical Doctrine Must Be Changed or Ignored

Gen 2:1-2 states that God rested once creation was completed.  However, if evolution is true then at what point did God rest?  It must have been after humans evolved.  That begs the question, what is a “human”?  Is it australopithecus ramidus or homo erectus or homo sapien?  Let’s say that it’s homo sapien which, according to evolutionary theory, first popped into the scene some 130,000 years ago.  So God rested from “the work which He had done” 130,000 years ago.   Did evolution stop at that point?  Obviously not, so then God must not be necessary for evolution to function.  If God’s not necessary, then exactly what “work” did He do?  So either God is necessary for evolution and He didn’t rest or God isn’t necessary for evolution and He hasn’t done much work after the initial setting of life in motion.  Either way Gen 2:1-2 is wrong.

Gen 1:24-25 asserts that God made all the animals “after their kind”.  Evolutionary theory is in direct opposition to this.  Evolution requires a change in kinds, the Bible claims the opposite.  They can’t both be right.

 Exodus 20: 8-11 exactly equates the days of creation with the days of the week.  The reason that God creates the Sabbath, and made it at the end of the week, is because that’s exactly how God created the universe and everything in it, in six days and rested on the seventh.  The evolutionary theist must define the word “day” at the beginning of the passage as literal days and the word “day” at the end of the passage as “age” or another word that allows for the inclusion of billions of years. 

Matt 19:4-5 states that God made humans male and female “from the beginning”.  If evolution is true then the Christian must tag on the phrase “…of humanity” at the end of “from the beginning” or must define “beginning” a different way.

The Bible:  Literal or Mythological

In Matt 19:4-5, Jesus clearly takes Genesis’ claim that God created humans “in the beginning” literally.  In Romans 5:12 Paul also takes the Genesis account of humanities’ first sin to be literal.  Paul also basis the explanation of how, through Adam, sin and therefore death entered the world, and (Romans 5:16-18) how one man, Jesus, was able to reconcile humanity to God, on his literal understanding of Genesis. 

In fact, reading the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Exodus, there is no shift in literary style.  Meaning the  teaching form of writing, meant to be taken as recorded factual events found in Exodus, does not differ in literary style from the events recorded in Genesis.  There is no literary “break” to signify the end of mythology and the beginning of history.  To reconcile this, someone might be tempted to say that the entire Pentateuch is myth.  You would then have to contend, however, with the plethora of Old Testament cities archaeologists have dug up and soon you’d find yourself back where you started (attempting to separate history from myth).

The Christian evolutionist find themselves in the precarious position of questioning the understanding of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  He must also attempt to explain his reasoning for separating myth from the history which surrounds it.  

Chronological Statements

In addition to Genesis claiming God created the universe in 6 literal days, God says he created the Earth before He created the Sun (Genesis 1).  This doesn’t make sense in the evolutionary world-view.

Reading through the Biblical narrative, one gets the sense that there is a definite beginning, climax (the birth of Jesus Christ) and an end to the story of humanity.  Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  This verse speaks of a purpose for the existence of humanity and when the preaching of the gospel has ended, the “whole world” will end.   The book of Revelation is God revealing what form this “end” will take and how and why it will come about. 

This is not the evolutionary picture.  If evolution is true, humanities “purpose” is lost.  To evolution, homo sapien is just another species that will become extinct some time in the next few hundred thousand years. 

God-of-the-Gaps

Evolutionary theory has several holes that it cannot explain scientifically.  Inserting God into the beginning of life, the Cambrian explosion, and the creating of human consciousness (reason and intelligence) is how the Christian evolutionist reconciles the two theories.  Those things, he contends, cannot be explained by science so therefore, God did it.  Instead of one all-encompassing act of creation, God, at several points in the evolutionary world history, made His power known through smaller acts of creation.  The creation of DNA, the creation of novel body plans, and the creation of human intelligence and reason.

The problem is that this reduces God to being inserted where modern scientific knowledge is lacking.  A God-of-the-gaps.  God, it seems, must intervene when the evolution He set into motion fails to produce as many body plans and plant fauna as He would have liked and fails to produce the human consciousness.  Not exactly the all-powerful God the Bible claims Him to be.

The larger problem however is that this God-of-the-gaps will rightly seem impotent and arbitrary to any athiestic evolutionist.  The argument legitimately becomes, “Just because we don’t scientifically know the answer YET doesn’t mean we should insert God there.”  This God-of-the-gaps is powerless to destroy the science-of-the-gaps and any Christian evolutionist will find himself frustrated in an argument with a moderately informed atheist. 

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor can be paraphrased with “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”  This can apply to both sides of our current issue.  If evolution is true, adding God is just an added assumption that cloud’s the issue.  Our knowledge may be incomplete but that doesn’t mean “Godidit”.  The power of evolution is that God isn’t NEEDED. 

To the Christian evolutionist, if God is powerful enough to create DNA and human consciousness then why does He go through all the extra steps, extra assumptions, of common ancestry and evolution, being forced to insert Himself several times along the way?  Why not create everything as is and “after their kind”?

Conclusion

Providing accomodations regarding a single scientific theory (common ancestry) to academia is not required of the Christian.  All it does is force several deviations from Christian orthodoxy, evolutionary theory, and rationality.

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6 Comments on “Is Theistic Evolution Viable?”

  1. agnosticus Says:

    Excellent post. I’m a former successful pastor (of almost 20 years), received my undergrad and fully accredited grad degrees in biblical studies, and now an atheist. Christians do not understand the origins and purposes of Genesis 1 & 2+ and confuse their popular beliefs with science and true biblical scholarship. Science has trumped all religious explanations about our universe. Nice job.


  2. “states that God rested once creation was completed. However, if evolution is true then at what point did God rest?”

    Even if evolution is not true, at what point did God rest? Even if you don’t accept the fact that speciation happens, other parts of the earth are certainly changing constantly. What about new mountains being formed, etc?

    “It must have been after humans evolved.”

    Why is this the only option?

    “25 asserts that God made all the animals “after their kind”. Evolutionary theory is in direct opposition to this. Evolution requires a change in kinds, the Bible claims the opposite. They can’t both be right.”

    Define “kinds”.

    “Evolutionary theory has several holes that it cannot explain scientifically. Inserting God into the beginning of life, the Cambrian explosion, and the creating of human consciousness (reason and intelligence) is how the Christian evolutionist reconciles the two theories.”

    Why are you assuming all Christians who also accept evolutionary theory think the same way?

    “Instead of one all-encompassing act of creation, God, at several points in the evolutionary world history, made His power known through smaller acts of creation. The creation of DNA, the creation of novel body plans, and the creation of human intelligence and reason.”

    I personally know very few people who believe in both God and evolution who have this viewpoint.

  3. intelligentscience Says:

    agnosticus

    Your tale from Christianity to atheism saddens me. I pray that one day you will realize that not believing in God doesn’t make Him go away. I would like to ask however, what made you forsake your faith?

    However, I do agree with you. It’s either evolution or Christianity, a mix of both just doesn’t work. I’m not sure you caught that I don’t think Christians need to make such intellectual accomodations to evolutionary theory because evolutionary theory is like a house of cards, easily toppled.

    Also, if you’d like to defend your statement that “science has trumped all religious explanations about your universe”, I’d like to hear it.

  4. intelligentscience Says:

    airtightnoodle

    “Even if evolution is not true, at what point did God rest? Even if you don’t accept the fact that speciation happens, other parts of the earth are certainly changing constantly. What about new mountains being formed, etc?”

    God resting means resting from His “creative work”. This doesn’t mean the Earth, and life, doesn’t change because we all can see that it does. “New mountains” are also just another form of change.

    I said: “It must have been after humans evolved.”

    You said: “Why is this the only option?”

    My point is that the Genesis claimed that God rested after he created humans. The theistic evolutionist must take Genesis as myth (which I discussed) or believe that God rested after humans evolved. If you have another option I’m open to it.

    “Define “kinds”.”

    Good idea. A bird is a bird and a cat is a cat. We can observe changes in the beak sizes of birds (Darwin’s finches) and we can observe many different types of cats. But they’re still “after their kind”.

    “Why are you assuming all Christians who also accept evolutionary theory think the same way?”

    Ok, at what point during evolution would you insert God?

    “I personally know very few people who believe in both God and evolution who have this viewpoint.”

    I would assert that they are being intellectually inconsistent. However, I am open to being shown otherwise. How would you reconcile God’s act of creation with evolutionary theory? What would your theistic evolution story be?

  5. Tim Nichols Says:

    Agnosticus’ statement “Science has trumped all religious explanations about our universe” is itself a religious statement, with Science as the object of worship. But on to other things…

    You might want to have a look at some of the RATE project work on the Genesis text. You can find the popular-level explanation here: http://tinyurl.com/4atbty
    and the really long, technical explanation here: http://tinyurl.com/y7ohob . Gotta pay for it, sorry. (FYI, the first volume of the RATE project is available free here: http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/research/rate-all.pdf

  6. intelligentscience Says:

    Tim

    From what I gather so far agnosticus is only interested in making his assertions and moving on.

    Thanks for the references Tim, I’ll definetly check them out, and read the FREE one.


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